Spotlight on: Brian Moynihan, chief executive, Bank of America
Stephen Foley is a former Associate Business Editor of The Independent, based in New York. He left in August 2012. In a decade at the paper, he covered personal finance, the UK stock market and the pharmaceuticals industry, and had also been the Business section's share tipster. Between arriving with three suitcases in Manhattan in January 2006 and his departure, he witnessed and reported on a great economic boom turning spectacularly to bust. In March 2009, he was named Business and Finance Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards.
Friday 20 January 2012
Ooh, that's a tough job
It sure is. BofA is the definitely the shakiest of the big US banks, having never pulled itself free of the credit crisis. But Mr Moynihan is used to dealing with a few bruises. Earlier in his career he would regularly come to the office all beaten up from a rugby game the night before.
Well, he certainly makes up in strength, stamina and suppleness what he might lack in experience. He is a lawyer, not a banker, by profession, but has been willing to parachute into troubled divisions at a moment's notice. When BofA fired John Thain, the overspending boss of Merrill Lynch, shortly after its acquisition, Mr Moynihan took it on and worked hard to juggle this demanding job with his family life. He'd dash back to Massachusetts on the corporate jet just to be home in time to coach his daughter's basketball team after school.
A lawyer? Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Right. BofA's fortunes rest in large part on the outcome of billions of dollars of mortgage-related lawsuits. (On reflection, it really oughtn't have bought Countrywide, the largest subprime lender, just before the market meltdown.)
How's he doing?
Analysts' reviews have been somewhat mixed, and BofA's 50 per cent share price collapse last year is a verdict of sorts, too. The bank is having to slim right down, shed assets and pass up on lucrative new business just to conserve cash. It lost its crown as the biggest US bank by assets to JPMorgan Chase last year – and even then the markets didn't really believe Mr Moynihan when he said the bank won't need to raise new money.
After results yesterday, in which assets sales made up for a loss at Merrill Lynch, sceptics are starting to rethink.
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